pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Come Quickly

Reading: Psalm 70

Verse One: “Hasten, O Lord, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me”.

Today’s Psalm is like a little of other Psalms in their intent. This Psalm is one of many that cry out to God for help and protection and deliverance. Many of these Psalms speak of the trial and suffering that is leading the psalmist to open with these words: “Hasten, O Lord, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me”. The psalmist is in need of God’s presence and help. This prayer of David is beneficial to us for several reasons.

One reason is to remind us that all people everywhere have hardships in their lives from time to time, us included. It is simply part of life. In reading how a king so great as David could have troubles just like ours troubles somehow lessens ours or at least makes us feel not so alone the n our struggle.

A second reason is to give us a pattern of prayer that we can use ourselves. This prayer of David can become our prayer for God’s presence and help. In those moments when we feel like others are against us and we need God’s intervention and saving and deliverance, we can pray Psalm 70.

A third and perhaps most important reason is to remind us that it is not only okay to ask for help but that God desires it. When we turn to God for help, we are acknowledging our need for God. In doing so, we build up our relationship because we are being honest and vulnerable. At times we can have difficulty asking for help. It feels weak and runs counter to our rugged individualism mentality that is fueled by pride and ego. Yet if the great King David needed to ask for help, surely so can we. In doing so, we are also practicing humility.

Sometimes we can even ask for help from one another in a time of need. In this we are admitting our imperfections and our inability to do it on our own. This act of humility feels risky. But it admits our need for one another as well. It admits our need for community and friendship and belonging. There we also find great love and support.

When life rains on us, may we ever turn to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In our weakness, they give strength. May we come quickly to those around us. May we ever have the courage to trust in God and in one another.

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Courage

Reading: John 1: 43-51

Verse 49: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel”.

Jesus finds Philip and simply says, “Follow me” and Philip does.  He hears these simple words and is all in.  Philip invites his friend to do the same, but Nathanael is a little more reluctant.  It is not until he begins to interact with Jesus that he comes to follow Jesus.  After Jesus offers a little proof of who He is, Nathanael declares, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel”.  Philip and Nathanael are two good disciple prototypes.

Some believers are like Philip.  There is a sense of the call to follow Jesus.  For many like Philip, the call comes through our upbringing.  We were raised in the church and initially had the faith of our parents or grandparents.  But then one day we sensed a call to a personal faith as Jesus said to us, “Follow me”.  Like Philip, at that point we responded to a call to go deeper, to make our faith a personal and intimate faith.

Other believers come to faith like Nathanael.  Jesus does something in their life that has a sudden impact or jars them a bit.  In a moment they realize just who Jesus is and they feel compelled to give their lives to Jesus.  In this, the decision point is much the same for both prototypes.  It is a realization that Jesus knows us and is calling us into a personal relationship with Him.

The decision to enter into a saving relationship with Jesus is just the beginning.  From there on out it takes commitment and obedience to walk daily with Christ.  We invest our time and energy to get to know Jesus more and more.  As we do so, we grow to be more and more like Jesus.  Eventually others begin to see Jesus in us.  When they do, often they begin to seek Him out too.  When they do, may we have the courage to say to them, “Come and see” as they begin their own journey of faith.  O Lord, grant us the courage today and every day to be a witness to Jesus Christ.  Amen.


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Step Out

Reading: Matthew 14: 26-33

Verse 28: Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.

In the midst of a storm, Jesus comes to the disciples, walking across the water.  Already a bit on the edge from the storm, the disciples see Jesus coming and they think He is a ghost.  This terrifies them further and they cry out in fear.  Sometimes I find myself in a storm.  As Jesus draws near, at times it scares me too.  I sense Him drawing near and wonder what will be prune away or changed in me to keep me out of the storm the next time.

Jesus responds to the disciples’ cries and fears saying, “Take courage!  It is I.  Do not fear”.  It is a familiar line to me.  I can picture Jesus with a slight smile on His face as He says it.  This is what I picture as He comes to me in my storm.  The smile says, “This may hurt a bit but it’ll be good for you”.  Again those words: Take courage!  It is I.  Do not fear.  I have plans to prosper you, to bring you good.

Peter’s response is interesting.  Immediately he says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water”.  He asks to step out into the rough water, out into the danger.  He doesn’t wait for Jesus to finish coming to the boat, but instead wants to meet Jesus someplace out there in the tumult.  For most of us it is an odd choice.  We like to hunker down where we are at and wait for Jesus to come to us.  Peter does not consider the risks – he just wants to be closer to Jesus sooner.  If only that we’re our default choice.  If only we would be so eager to step into the risky and unknown and unfamiliar just to come closer to Jesus sooner.  If only we sought Jesus as much as Peter did.  If only.

When we are willing to step out for Jesus, we too will hear those words echo: “Take courage!  It is I.  Do not fear”.  May we trust in the Lord and respond faithfully to His call: “Come”.


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Love and Justice and Mercy

Reading: Genesis 37: 1-4 and 12-28

Verse Four: They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph is clearly the father’s favorite.  Israel loves Joseph more than any of his other sons.  In today’s passage, Israel makes Joseph a “richly ornamented robe”.  For a second, recall Joseph and his dreams of his brothers and even his father and mother bowing down to him.  For a second, recall Joseph’s penchant for tattling on his brothers.  Now Joseph waltzes in, showing off his new coat.  Joseph certainly plays up his favored son status.  His brother’s reaction?  “They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him”.

Later in our passage, Israel decides to send Joseph out to check on the others sons and the flocks.  He tells Joseph to “bring word back to me”.  As the brothers see Joseph coming, they plot to kill him.  In our society today, does this still happen?  Do some who live without look at those who have much with hatred and envy?  Thanks without may desire to do away with the ones with privilege and power, especially the ones who flaunt it.  So, when we go to the city to serve in the rescue mission, do those in line look at us this way?  If we act as if we are stooping down to do something ‘good’ or if we act aloof, certainly we are seen this way.  If we are unwilling to sit and hear another’s story, to communicate that they are worthy of our time and attention, then we remain distant and privileged.

Reuben speaks up for Joseph and plans to come back later to rescue him.  When violence and injustice and hatred arise today, do we act as Reuben acted?  Do we try and lessen it and plan on coming back later to partially address the situation?  Or do we stand up for what is righteous and choose to stand in the gap, saying ‘no more’?  At times we will see prejudice or hatred, injustice or abuse.  Then and there, do we addresd it fully?  Do we stand for those in need of our voice and courage?  Do we love and care for all as God loves and cares for all?  Or do we leave them in the cistern and hope to come back later?

O God of love and justice and mercy, make me an instrument of Your love and justice and mercy.


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Faithful Servant

Reading: Genesis 24: 34-38

Verse 37: My master made me swear an oath…

Abraham’s servant has been tasked with a very important job.  He is to go back to Abraham’s homeland to find a wife for Isaac.  Abraham and Sarah were well beyond child-bearing years when Isaac was born and Sarah has died.  The precious gift of a child must be cared for.  The line must extend beyond Isaac and no Canaanite woman will do.  The wife for Isaac must come from Abraham’s own clan.  This will become a common practice as Israel becomes more defined as God’s chosen people and God directs them not to intermarry with the peoples around them lest they be led astray.

The servant begins today’s passage by explaining why he is there.  In the previous verses the servant has met Rebekah and has discerned that God’s hand is at work in leading him to this very person and to this very house.  After a prayer of thanksgiving, the servant proceeded to Laban’s home.  But the task is not done.  It is not time to relax.  The faithful servant puts off food until he has spoken with Laban.  He is faithful to the task his master Abraham gave him.

At times we too have tasks to carry out that involve God’s larger plan or our commitment to follow Jesus as Master.  We feel as this servant felt – there is something God has placed on our hearts that must be accomplished.  We must talk to this person about such and such or maybe we feel led to volunteer for or take on something at church or in the community.  For some, maybe they are wrestling with a call to ministry or with a call to serve God in some way.  Taking that first step can be so hard.  Being willing to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to go where it leads requires a deep and abiding trust in God.

When we sense God’s hand at work in our lives may we be like this faithful servant, trusting fully in God, stepping out boldly in faith to accomplish or respond to whatever God places on our heart today.


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Suffering Servant

Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-9a

Verse 9a – It is the sovereign Lord who helps me.

Today’s reading is one of the four servant songs we find in the book of Isaiah.  It is a writing open to some interpretation in terms of who the suffering servant is.  In context, it could be Isaiah himself, whose life experiences certainly encompassed the content of this passage.  The words could also represent the people of Israel – off in exile in a far away land, living amongst pagan people.  Both Isaiah and the Israelites would feel weary and would desire to hear the word of the Lord to gain strength and courage.  Both would face trial and persecution and would choose to endure these things in order to stay true to their faith.  Both would hold onto hope in God to see them through and to vindicate them in the end.

Years later we encounter another suffering servant: Jesus.  He too would live a life that included all of the things Isaiah wrote about.  So as the early church read this passage, they connected it to Jesus.  Jesus would rely on God alone for strength and courage; He would often face trial and persecution; and, He would maintain faith in His Father, who would, in the end, vindicate Him.  There are many parallels between the ‘characters’ that we can read into this Isaiah passage.

There are also people today who read this passage and connect to it themselves.  They can see their lives in the words of Isaiah.  There are also others who can look back over their faith journey and recall times when they were under a heavy load and God gave them strength.  They can look back and see how God led them through a trial or time of persecution.  We have all clung to God as we prayed for direction and courage and strength to face what lay ahead.  Wherever we are in the story – may we go to the Lord our God, trusting in the words of verse nine: “It is the sovereign Lord who helps me”.  Thank you God for your unfailing love.


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Prone

Reading: Genesis 3: 1-7

The story of sin in our passage today is repeated each day in our lives.  While we do not eat the forbidden fruit, we partake and indulge and rationalize and justify and blame any number of times each day in our lives.  Maybe it is an unkind word to our spouse, maybe it is a little gossip, maybe it is one too many treats, maybe, maybe, maybe.  The list is long.

For Adam and Eve it appears that just one thing draws them away from following God’s instructions.  But I do not think the serpent’s whisper was the first time they thought about the tree.  They have probably wondered ‘why’ ever since God said, “don’t eat”.  Adam and Eve have always obeyed God up to this point.  That is why it has been a wonderful relationship.  They walk and talk each day.  The serpent tells Eve that she will not die if she eats the forbidden fruit.  The serpent also plants the ‘real’ reason God does not want them to partake.  Later, when Adam and Eve are at the tree, she sees the fruit is appealing and good to eat, when she remembers that what God said isn’t ‘true’, she eats.  She indulges.  She justifies what she knows she shouldn’t.  And Adam is right there with her.

Sitting in the break room, the conversation begins.  It is so hard not to join in or at least listen to the gossip and silently judge.  TV show isn’t quite over and there are some chips left in the bag.  It is so easy just to finish them off.  It was a hard and stressful day at work and emotions are tense.  Something is not quite right with dinner or the kids are a bit rambunctious, so you let someone have it.  It is so easy to slip into sin.  We like to think those listed here and others like them are relatively ‘harmless’, but each sin comes with a cost, a price, a consequence.  A relationship is damaged or broken.  Maybe it is repairable, but should we ever get to the point of having to repair our relationships?

We all know the answer is ‘no’ but it is easier said than done.  We are, by nature, prone to sin.  God works all the time, most often through the presence of the Holy Spirit, to turn us from temptation and sin.  Merciful redeemer, when we do sin, make us humble in seeking forgiveness.  O Lord our God, strengthen and encourage us today for the trial and temptations that surely lie ahead, so that we may walk as faithful disciples this day.